National Federation of the Blind Applauds Settlement with Free Library of Philadelphia

Release Date

National Federation of the Blind Applauds Settlement with Free Library of Philadelphia

Lawsuit by Four Blind Patrons Over Inaccessible E-readers Resolved

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (October 23, 2012): A lawsuit against the Free Library of Philadelphia filed in May with the assistance of the National Federation of the Blind by four blind patrons—Denice Brown, Karen Comorato, Patricia Grebloski, and Antoinette Whaley—has been resolved by the parties.  The blind plaintiffs filed suit because the library began lending NOOK Simple Touch e-readers, which are manufactured and sold by Barnes & Noble, to patrons over fifty.  Unlike some other portable e-readers that use text-to-speech technology and/or Braille to allow blind people to read e-books, the NOOK devices are completely inaccessible to patrons who are blind.  Under the terms of the settlement, the library will purchase ten accessible e-readers to supplement the devices it has already purchased, and within four years will use only accessible e-reading devices. The library will also incorporate an accessibility requirement into its technology procurement contracts.  The settlement brings the library’s policies and practices into compliance with guidance issued by the United States Department of Education.  The library’s commitment is also in line with a resolution passed in 2009 by the American Library Association entitled Purchasing of Accessible Electronic Resources, which urged “all libraries purchasing, procuring, using, maintaining and contracting for electronic resources and services” to “require vendors to guarantee that products and services comply with Section 508 regulations, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, or other applicable accessibility standards and guidelines.”


Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “We applaud today’s settlement and the commitment of the Free Library of Philadelphia to create an e-reader lending program that will serve all of its patrons, including those who are blind or who cannot read print for other reasons.  The library’s commitment to procure accessible technology means that vendors of e-reading technology and content will have to make their products accessible in order to sell them to the Free Library of Philadelphia.  We hope that other libraries, educational institutions, and other entities with legal obligations to serve people with disabilities will emulate the approach being adopted by the Free Library of Philadelphia.  If they do, we believe that all e-book content will ultimately be accessible to the blind, giving us equal access to the printed word.”

Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)